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NPS Passport: Rocky Mountain National Park

NPS Passport: Rocky Mountain National Park

The United States has 63 national parks, which are congressionally designated protected areas operated by the National Park Service. National parks are renowned for their natural beauty, unique geological features, diverse ecosystems, and recreational opportunities. Equity Estates residences enjoy close proximity to over a dozen national parks.

A Land of Extremes

At 415 square miles, with elevations ranging from 7,800 feet to over 14,000 feet, Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the largest, highest, and most ecologically diverse parks in the country. It’s a land of spectacular vistas and stunning landscapes, with craggy, snow-covered peaks and bowl-shaped glaciers, protected alpine forests and woodlands, and large rolling meadows providing a wealth of unspoiled nature that’s perfect for exploring.

There’s a lot to see within RMNP and several different points of access to choose from, depending on your interests. From the Equity Estates homes in Vail, your most direct route is a scenic two-hour drive up I-70 towards Estes Park. You can stop in the quiet town of Allenspark and access RMNP trails from there, or drive another 12 miles north to the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center entrance, which we highly recommend.

At the visitor center, you can pick up maps, arrange a tour with one of the park rangers, learn more about the history of the park, and browse or buy souvenirs at the onsite Rocky Mountain Conservancy Nature Store.

Though the most popular months to visit are June through September, when most of the snow has melted, meadow wildflowers are blooming, and hiking trails are more accessible, winter in the park has its own charm. Bundle up and strap on cross-country skis or snowshoes to explore silent, snow-covered forests, take a sled ride along lakeside trails, or—if you’re an experienced skier—attempt the park’s steep backcountry terrain.

What the park is best known for:

Rocky Mountain National Park was named one of the 25 Best National Parks by U.S. Travel News and one of the Best National Parks to Visit in Winter by Condé Nast Traveler.

It’s best known for its towering mountains and year-round natural beauty—boasting vast meadows of green grass and wildflowers in spring and summer and a winter wonderland of snow and evergreens in colder months.

250,000 acres of the park, across three different biomes, have been designated as protected wilderness, supporting a variety of wildlife that includes roaming herds of elk, moose, and bighorn sheep; mountain lions and black bears; 280 identified bird species; and a surprisingly large number of butterflies.

Best of all, roads and trails are plentiful, providing unbelievable views from nearly every point within the park—from the valley floor to mid-range woodlands to the highest peaks.

Top three things to do in the park:


Hiking is one of the most popular activities in the RMNP, with self-guided hikes and ranger-led tours available year-round, depending on the weather. Within its borders, there are 350 miles of trails to choose from, and whether you’re looking for an easy lakeside stroll, a moderate ridgeline trail, or a more challenging day hike, there’s no better way to experience the park up-close. Both Bear Lake and Alberta Falls are great for beginners and offer amazing water views, while the more difficult, picturesque Twin Sisters and Glacier Gorge trails are best-suited for half-day outings by experienced hikers.

Scenic Drives

RMNP sports a robust network of paved and dirt roads, climbing from the lowest elevation up to about 11,000 feet and crossing otherwise untouched landscape, making it an idyllic place for a long, scenic drive. Just pack a picnic, grab a map at the visitor center, and head out to see the sights from the comfort of your car.

The famed Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved highway in the country, covers 48 miles between the park’s east and west sides, taking you through evergreen forests and then above the tree line for thrilling views of the valley below. The mostly gravel Old Fall River Road is a slower-paced, 11-mile route curving through woodland and tundra, where elk are often seen feeding on foliage and trees are close enough to touch. Along the way you’ll find places to stop for photos or to explore on foot, while the Endovalley Picnic Area near the Fall River offers a beautiful, quiet space to have lunch outdoors.

Horseback Riding

Horses have been part of RMNP’s tradition since its first days as a national park, and they are still welcomed on approximately 260 miles of the park’s trails today. Glacier Creek Stables (the only stable located inside the park) offers seasonal rides for all ages and experience levels along bubbling streams and rivers, through forest and wilderness, and even along part of the 30-mile-long Continental Divide Scenic Trail. Led by expert guides, it’s a fun way to get outdoors, enjoy the fresh mountain air, and learn more about the history of this beautiful national park.

About the Equity Estates home:

Our Vail I residence is a modern, yet cozy, three-bedroom, three-bath top-floor villa in the heart of prestigious Lionshead Village, walking distance to the town’s ski slopes, shops, restaurants, and more. The home features a spacious, open floorplan, high-end luxury touches, and large windows with gorgeous southern views, as well as access to onsite, resort-style amenities such as an indoor/outdoor heated pool, hot tub, and sauna—all perfect for unwinding after a day outdoors.

Our Vail II residence is a sleek three-bedroom, three-bath creek-side villa in the heart of Vail Village, featuring vaulted ceilings, contemporary décor, and a private deck with breathtaking views of Vail Mountain. Its prime location puts you steps away from ski lifts, shopping, dining, and outdoor adventures, while the surrounding evergreen landscape and sounds of Gore creek will make you feel a world away.